PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court has denied a request by The Oregonian Publishing Co. for Oregon Health and Science University to release the names of patients who intend to sue.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the court ruled on Thursday that the information is protected from public disclosure under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA.

The company that publishes the Portland newspaper sought a list of names of those who planned to sue the university, which is a public institution that receives taxpayer money. The list would have included patients, students, employees, contractors and visitors.

Lower courts ordered the university to release the information, but it appealed to the state Supreme Court. State attorneys filed a brief in support of the newspaper's position.

OHSU spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley said the institution did not have an immediate comment on the ruling.

Duane Bosworth, an attorney for The Oregonian/OregonLive, said the public has a significant interest in learning about problems at OHSU and how much they're costing the public in payouts.

"Is there a pattern of claims that the public should know about?" Bosworth said. "Is OHSU giving away millions to settle without publicity or citizen scrutiny? The court's ruling prohibits getting information on this subject."

The case began in 2011, when a health care reporter requested the information going back five years. He didn't seek the actual letters describing the claims or specific information about patients' health conditions, treatments or diagnoses.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com